Lab Report

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The Lab Report is a weekly compendium of media reports on science and technology achievements at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Though the Laboratory reviews items for overall accuracy, the reporting organizations are responsible for the content in the links below.

Mar. 02, 2018

Volumetric 3D printing creates parts by overlapping three laser beams from three different directions.

Life in the fast lane

Anyone who’s watched a 3D printer in action knows the whole experience is one of excruciating boredom. It can take hours for a standard printer to create a simple figurine.

Maxim Shusteff, a staff engineer in the materials engineering division of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and his colleagues, were just as bored with the process, so they found a way to speed things up -- by a lot.

“The question we put to ourselves was could we take the next leap in additive by making 3D structures all at once,” Shusteff said.

Artist rendering of the solid electrolyte material, showing lithium atoms (purple) moving within a matrix of anions composed of boron (green), carbon (gray) and hydrogen (white) atoms. Image by Joel Varley/LLNL

Fast charge ahead

Research in the design of lithium-ion batteries using solid-state electrolyte material is still in its infancy. This new type of battery using nonflammable materials promises better safety and improved energy density compared to current lithium-ion batteries with a fluidic electrolyte. A major hurdle in the development so far has been the search for a solid-state electrolyte with the right properties, allowing fast transfer of lithium ions between the electrodes.

Other problem areas of solid-state electrolytes relate to the long-term stability and durability of the battery. To promote speedier passage of lithium ions it’s been necessary to make the electrolyte as thin as possible, but this impacts on overall battery durability.

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have made a significant advance using a new class of materials called closo-borates, which offer fast lithium ion mobility. By substituting one boron atom for a carbon atom in this key electrolyte material they found that the lithium ions moved around faster and allowed for faster charging.


Time-integrated image of a laser-driven shock compression experiment to recreate planetary interior conditions and study the properties of superionic water. Image by M. Millot/E. Kowaluk/J.Wickboldt/LLNL/LLE/NI

Weird water

At extremely high pressure and temperature, water ought to exist in a strange state -- both as solid and liquid -- which we today call superionic ice.

But no one to date has proved that this strange state of water existed. The required pressure and temperature just seemed too high to achieve using even the most modern equipment.

That has now changed, thanks to researchers from the Lawrence Livermore, the University of Rochester, and the University of California at Berkeley  who have created superionic ice.

To get there, they squished liquid water with diamond anvils to 25,000 times the atmospheric pressure. Next, they blasted ice VII with intense bursts of lasers for a few billionths of a second. This increased the pressure to 2 million times the atmospheric pressure and raised the temperature to nearly 5000°C (9000°F). This is when ice VII gets converted to superionic ice -- going from being transparent to opaque.

Hits to the head, whether on the football field or battleground, can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Breakthrough for the brain

Lawrence Livermore and Boston University resarchers have found that repeated hits to the head -- not concussions -- can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease that has plagued NFL players after their departure from the league. The new research says that even at younger levels, football can be dangerous -- not just at the fast-paced play that college and the NFL have.

The study examined the brains of four teenage boys, and the brains of mice that showed changes after trauma, in spite of not showing symptoms of concussions. The study looked to answer the question of why about 20 percent of brains that were found to have CTE were from subjects that had never had (or at least been diagnosed with) concussions.

Lawrence Livermore Director Bill Goldstein visits children at Lawrence Elementary School. Photo by Maren Hunsberger/LLNL

It’s all in a name

Lawrence Livermore Director Bill Goldstein visited Lawrence Elementary School last week to meet the Lawrence “Labs” and be part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially welcomed the school to the Livermore community.

Named after LLNL, leaders of the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District and the city of Livermore joined the dedication, which took place at the school’s new marquee.

Goldstein toured the campus, observing students engaged in learning in a variety of classrooms across all grade levels. During the ceremony, Goldstein referred to the culture already at work in the new school. “Seeing the teamwork in the classrooms, with teachers and students, brought to mind Ernest Lawrence, who was a big believer in teamwork,” he said.

Lawrence Elementary opened its doors as a satellite campus in November 2016 to accommodate an influx of students to the school district. In April 2017, the school board appointed a committee to choose a name for the school that would hold significance for its community.

The name of Lawrence Elementary emerged as the clear favorite for a permanent school name in honor of LLNL’s significance to the community and its partnership with Livermore schools. To represent their school, students voted for a Labrador as their mascot, proudly calling themselves the “Lawrence Labs.”